The Mining Resilience Research Centre (MRRC) is an active participant in the South African Mining Extraction Research, Development & Innovation (SAMERDI) Strategy. The SAMERDI strategy aims to improve the competitiveness of local mining equipment manufacturing firms, and to develop technological solutions to improve safety and productivity, reduce costs, and extend the life of mines and their benefit to communities. This strategy further aims to revitalise the mining research, development and innovation (RDI) capability in South Africa and position the country as a global focal point and knowledge leader. In this endeavour, the MRRC, as the mining research division of the University of Pretoria, is a collaborative partner with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the University of the Witwatersrand, and the University of Johannesburg.
Under the SAMERDI initiative, these four collaborative entities are currently engaged in research to support the modernisation drive of the South African mining industry. Modernisation will help to improve health and safety, facilitating the quest for zero harm, and it will contribute to increased skills development, employment, exports and revenue. Modernisation also encompasses the implementation of modern technologies in mining operations, for increased efficiencies, which in turn has to be driven by research and development (R&D). For this to be successful, a systems and people-centric approach is crucial in order to ensure beneficial outcomes to all mining stakeholders while navigating the unique challenges that South Africa faces.
In this quest, the following initial pilot priority programmes have been identified and are currently underway:
- Advanced Orebody Knowledge
- Longevity of Current Mining
- Mechanisation of Gold and PGM commodities using drilling and blasting
- Non-Explosive Rock Breaking
- Real-Time Information Management Systems
- Human Factors
Ultimately, without a shift in the mining industry towards a modernised industry, the country will fail to mine South Africa’s deep-level complex orebodies profitably. This could result in the sterilisation of resources, accelerated and premature mine closures and job losses. To avoid this, the Chamber of Mines of South Africa has set requirements for the industry to progress towards a modernised future. The road towards this vision, to help restore the competitiveness of the industry, and to ensure that the bulk of the country’s mineral resource (worth an estimated R2.5 trillion) can be profitably extracted, requires substantial re-investment in technology that would build on improvements and modernisation efforts towards fully autonomous, non-explosive, remote mining environments. To this end, there is an urgent need to develop Next Generation Mining Systems (NGMS), especially NGMS that would enable the mining of deeper narrow reef, hard-rock commodities such as Platinum and Gold. In addition to this, systems to make current mining operations safer, healthier, more productive and sustainable, are also required to be developed and current ones improved upon. This then further includes the digitisation of mining operations, to keep abreast with international developments in areas such as Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 type applications.
This campaign for increased innovation in mining has culminated in an allocation in the national budget for research and development in the SA mining industry (in the extractive phase of the value chain), on an unprecedented level compared to historical initiatives. From these outcomes, and as a part of the detailed plans that arose during the Mining Phakisa to accelerate the modernisation drive, a Mining Hub was established as the coordinator for SAMERDI. The Mining Hub, now named the Mining Precinct, will facilitate the public-private relationship and collaboration, coordinate mining equipment manufacture and skills development by mining companies, original equipment manufacturers, skills-development entities, and research entities of which the MRRC is a proud participant.